Pamela Gray Payton '16: Advancing Social Justice in San Diego

Tuesday, February 16, 2021TOPICS: AlumniLeadershipSpotlights

USD School of Business alumna Pamela Payton Grey smiles in front of a green door
begin quoteIn the MSEL program, I got clarity on my purpose and was reaffirmed that it's okay to care about people and to also care about the bottom line. You can do both and you can really build an organization using both principles.

Pamela Gray Payton ‘16 (MSEL) has made it her mission to create a lasting impact in the local community that aligns with her core values. As an alumna of the Master of Science in Executive Leadership at the University of San Diego School of Business, Pamela believes that “the principles of the MSEL program are central to who I am. I live those values every day and apply them in my career today, especially around the issues I care so much about — advancing racial and social justice.”

As chief impact and partnerships officer and vice president of community impact at The San Diego Foundation, Pamela leads strategic initiatives and develops partnerships that advance the quality of life for San Diegans. Currently, she is focused on two initiatives, one of which is the Black Community Investment Fund launched in September.

Black Community Investment Fund

“San Diego is not unlike many other cities in the country where grave disparities have impacted the quality of life for people of color, particularly Black people,” says Pamela. 

“And so, we established the Black Community Investment Fund (BCIF) to create generational wealth for Black San Diegans.

The fund focuses on four key areas: education, employment and workforce development, entrepreneurship, and homeownership. Each area gives Black community members the tools and resources to reach financial stability that can be passed onto future generations. Of the four, Pamela is especially excited about the homeownership pillar. 

“Imagine you're able to buy a home in an area where you have access to good schools for your kids, you've got a great grocery store around the corner, it’s not too far from the highway so that you can jump on the freeway and get to work,” says Pamela. 

“It changes your life. Someday, these new homeowners will be able to use the equity in their homes to send their children to college. The BCIF is a great example of the power of collaboration."

Meeting with Governor Gavin Newsom

Pamela Gray Payton meets with Governor Gavin Newsom

Just last week, Governor Gavin Newsom visited San Diego to thank first responders and hear from organizations helping with the local COVID response. Pamela was invited to meet with Governor Newsom along with five other community leaders. 

“We had a conversation about the Black Community Investment Fund and its pillars. Governor Newsom’s thoughtful responses showed he was really interested and impressed by our work,” said Pamela. 

“I emphasized to him that the Foundation is a willing and capable partner ready to take on new projects and collaborate with the state of California to continue to bring COVID relief to the San Diego region.” 

Becoming a leader that values people

Looking back, Pamela credits the USD School of Business, and specifically the MSEL program, with helping her build confidence to be the type of leader she always wanted to be — one who successfully prioritizes both profit and people. 

“Through the MSEL program, I learned to see things in a different way. And for me, that really helped in my career, but even more so, it helped me as a person,” says Pamela.

“I got clarity on my purpose and was reaffirmed that it's okay to care about people and to also care about the bottom line. You can do both and you can really build an organization using both principles.”

Today, Pamela sees her role at The San Diego Foundation as a match made in heaven. It’s a place where she can be true to herself, grow even more as a leader, and work to advance just, equitable and resilient communities.

“At work, I don't have to leave any part of me at home, literally or figuratively. I get to bring all of me into my workplace and I’m valued for doing so. And that means everything to me. I get to truly be my authentic self and that person is someone who others respect. I’m so grateful to have found such a perfect professional fit.”

— Bridget Breitenberg


Bridget Breitenberg
(619) 260-4828